The dog police

It’s been a while since I’ve had any juicy stories to post, and this is a doozy. First, as always, a little background.

In the first week in this new apartment, I had an interaction with my new neighbour. He was halfway down the corridor outside my apartment, I was at the door. We were a good four metres apart. Oliver, being Oliver, strained at his leash to say ‘Hi’ to this new person. He didn’t bark, he didn’t growl, he may have panted excitedly. A few days later, we received word that an official complaint had been entered against our aggressive dog. This is Oliver we’re talking about.

I felt briefly outraged before putting it down to some childhood experience he’d had with a dog, and resolved to stay out of his way. A few days later we were vindicated as the building manager finally met Oliver and spent some time cooing over him before apologising for the misunderstanding.

Cut to today.

Between then and now, the only glimpses I’ve had of this neighbour have been as he’s been arriving or leaving in his car; there has been no interaction between us at all. Today, as myself and Mirto entered the building with Oliver and Eddie, we saw our neighbour and his wife entering the other end of the lobby. Being the considerate sorts, we stayed at the entrance to allow them to enter the elevator first.

Instead, the neighbour walked towards us in an aggressive manner before dropping some files he was carrying on a bench that runs along the side of the lobby. At this, Oliver reacts quite normally for a dog by barking. Once. Please note that he didn’t stand up, strain at his leash, growl, snarl, snap, slobber or bite. He barked. Once.

Our neighbour uttered a phrase that is about as diplomatic a conversation starter as assassinating Archduke Ferdinand:

“You should put a muzzle on that thing.”

If you don’t own a dog, that may seem like a reasonable suggestion. If you do, however, that’s akin to telling a parent to muzzle their screaming baby. I responded by telling him he was being ridiculous at which point I was informed that if I did not muzzle him, he would report my dog as aggressive.

It’s worth an aside here to note how fearsome this threat is. The power to have a government service swoop in and take a dog from an owner parallels that of having social services swoop in to take a child into care. It is a very powerful threat and should never be used lightly to a dog owner.

Sadly, at this point I lost my temper and called him an arsehole. Not my finest hour, I’ll admit, and I instantly regretted it. Well, almost instantly. First I told his wife she should muzzle her husband.

Anyway, once upstairs I realised I’d crossed a line and decided to apologise immediately. As they exited the elevator I stepped out of my apartment and offered my sincere apologies for swearing at and insulting him. I was told most emphatically that the apology was not accepted and to get lost.

Just as the initial shock of the altercation was dying down, we had some friends arrive and, three-and-a-half hours and a bottle of wine later had mostly forgotten about the incident, or at least had relegated it to the frustrating and disappointing folder.

Then it was time for the nightly walk so we left the apartment and went down to the lobby to find, wait for it, the neighbour, his wife, and two police officers. As we walked through them, I willed Oliver to be on his best behaviour and he was a shining example of well-mannered dogginess. As we got to the front door, I heard “That’s them, officer” and stifled a chuckle at the cliche.

Turning around, I was ushered outside by an officer who asked me to stay around to give my statement. I expressed my surprise and made it clear I wasn’t sure exactly what horrible crime I was meant to be describing, and he made it clear that he didn’t know why he was there either. Skipping the gory details, twenty minutes later the police were driving away as baffled as we were about their inclusion in this tale, and I’m now trying to shrug the whole thing off as the result of a sad little man feeling scared and not knowing how to deal with it.

I have a feeling this is not over yet.

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